Bad news loofah lovers. That handy scrubber you use to lather up with in the shower is probably doing you more harm than good.
It turns out that the features that make loofahs such excellent exfoliators also make them ticking time bombs. A loofah scrubs dirt and dead skin cells off of your body, which then get trapped in its delicate weave. Every time the loofah gets wet and does not dry properly, the trapped organisms grow and grow. "You spread the bacteria that you washed off your body the last time," Dr. Michele Green, M.D., New York-based board-certified dermatologist, told HuffPost. "The loofah is spreading yesterday's dirt back on your body."
And that's not just conjecture. A 1994 study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that loofahs can transmit species of bacteria that may cause infection, making them particularly dangerous for patients with weak immune systems.
Joel Schlessinger, MD, another board-certified dermatologist, also advises going loofah-less. "I wouldn't recommend using a buff puff or loofah," Schlessinger told Reader's Digest. "Loofah sponges are intimate with many unclean areas of the body and then sit around allowing bacteria to multiply within the nooks and crannies of the sponge."
Think about it: the warm, moist environment of a shower is a paradise for germs. Using a loofah is basically providing bacteria with a free ride to your skin. Gulp.
If you can't bring yourself to say goodbye to your loofah, there are a few things you can do to prevent it from turning into a bacteria factory. After every use, be sure to remove your loofah from the moist environment of your shower and hang it somewhere with enough air flow to completely dry it out. And if it changes color or picks up a foul smell, throw it away immediately.
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This article originally appeared on SouthernLiving.com